Ask any parent what their main job is and they will tell you it’s protecting their children and keeping them safe. New parents spend hours, if not days, baby-proofing the house. They research the best car seats and bike helmets and figure out ways to ensure their kids are safe online.
But, no matter how hard parents work to keep their kids safe, it is very difficult to protect children against mental health issues such as depression. According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), depression affects roughly 11% of adolescents by age 18.
If you are unsure as to whether your own child may be suffering from depression, here are 6 signs to look for:
1. More than Just Mood Swings
Thanks to raging hormones, it is quite normal for teenagers to experience mood swings. But those suffering from depression will show wilder and more frequent swings into and out of anger, sadness, shutting down, isolation, and irritability.
2. Academic Problems
A drop in grades and notes from teachers can be a big signal that something is going on. Is your teen getting to school late and/or cutting classes? Are they not showing up at all? Never ignore academic problems.
3. Changes in Social Behavior
Is your child spending less time with their friends? Do they have new friendships that you question? Or are they spending more and more time isolated? Changes in social behavior are often the first signal kids are in trouble.
4. A Loss of Interest in Their Favorite Activities
Did your teen use to love playing basketball or spend hours drawing? Have they suddenly lost interest in these activities? If your child no longer shows interest in favorite hobbies and activities, this could be an indicator that something is wrong.
5. A Lack of Motivation
Granted, teenagers are not known for being highly-motivated individuals, but those suffering from depression will show a marked decline in motivation.
6. A Family History of Depression
If you or someone else in your family suffer from depression, there is a very good chance your teen may also suffer from it.
7. Self Harming Behaviors
Is your child engaging in self harming behaviors such as cutting, burning, hair pulling, or skin picking? Common areas teens my cut include their forearms and thighs. If you’re noticing suspicious marks that appear they may be self inflicted, talk to your teen. Be cautious not to yell at, accuse, or blame your teen. Instead, use open ended questions and open up a conversation by checking in with how they’re doing, then reflect back your observations. For example, “How are you feeling these days? I noticed a few marks on your leg this morning, how did those get there?”
If you have noticed one or more of these signs, it’s important to seek help from a mental health therapist. While you may want to, you can’t love depression away. It needs strategic attention and a plan for management. Suicide rates are on the rise in our teens, between social status, self image, and social media, being a teen is hard. It’s important we recognize the signs, talk to our kids and support their mental health needs by getting them professional help, if needed.
A therapist will be able to assess your teen for depression and provide coping skills and tools to not only deal with symptoms, but also work through internal and external stressors that may be contributing their symptoms. If you or a loved one are concerned for a teen’s safety and would like to explore treatment options, contact us today. We would be happy to speak with you about how we can help.